Inner Workings: Bogles
In each installment of the Inner Workings series, we'll examine a different Modern archetype to find out what makes it tick. This time, it's the turn of Bogles, the most explosive aggro/combo deck this side of Infect, and the only major deck exploiting the Cinderella of card subtypes: Auras.
We've all been there - we see a new "enchant creature" spell that looks powerful, as they keep printing at least a few of those each year, and then we immediately realize we're never going to play with any of them, because Auras die together with the object they're enchanting, like servants of a pharaoh being buried with him; and if that object is a creature, the second most fragile permanent type in the game, that's an easy two-for-one we're offering the opponent on a silver platter. After all, it's exactly the reason why Equipment were devised in the first place, to have ways to continually boost our creatures that didn't carry the risk to blow the investment up in our face.
Why should one even think of playing with Auras anymore, then? Just go with Equipment, no? But, you know, some of those auras are really good, and they don't involve an equip cost, so it's easier for them to dress up a creature that was already on the battlefield, impacting the game immediately. Plus, not all creatures are easy to kill. There have always been creatures that spot removal can't touch – well, at least since stuff like Deep Spawn, Autumn Willow, Deadly Insect and especially Morphling existed, all graced by the previously non-keyworded ability that would take the official name "shroud" in Future Sight. But wait, shroud is not actually useful here, as you can't enchant a shroud creature (well, you can with Morphling, but you kind of don't need to). Thankfully, shroud was made obsolete when Magic 2012 turned into an evergreen keyword what was previously known as "troll shroud", i.e. shroud for guys that we can actually play our Auras on.
It's not like Magic 2012 invented the wheel, though, it just gave it a better name. Cards like Troll Ascetic and Thrun, the Last Troll were already there. The thing is, though Trolls are pretty great Aura carriers for sure, they also usually require building some sort of midrange deck. Instead, the Magic 2012 card that opened the door to a whole new archetype was one sexy little Elf named Gladecover Scout.
And it wasn't even the first time that hexproof, or its equivalents, appeared on one-mana creatures. A less attractive guy had mostly gone unnoticed back in Eventide. Yet his name would eventually somehow be synonymous with a quick kill.
A Slippery Slope
Slippery Bogle never amounted to much in the past because it was all alone. And if you need to play it on turn one in order to pump it quickly, then you can't rely on one of a measly four copies ending up in your starting hand. One out of eight though, that just might just work.
And in truth, it did, as the deck called "Bogles" (or just singular "Bogle", or in a more straightforward way, Aura Hexproof) was going to become the first deck where Auras had a central role since that time Standard players were fetching Eldrazi Conscription with Sovereigns of the Lost Alara (which was actually not much earlier, but that deck never really translated into Modern).
This seems as good a place as any to point out that every Modern-legal creature I mentioned so far was green. As a matter of fact, if shroud leaned slightly toward blue, hexproof is more of a green affair; but it's telling that both are the colors of Slippery Bogle itself, although in hybrid fashion. But green is also the color of the Aura that mostly embodies the other way to avoid the two-for-one bad feeling usually associated with that card subtype: Rancor
Unless they kill its target while it's on the stack. That'd cause a very bad feeling.
So, we have green hexproof creatures and at least one aura that comes back. Let's add the other "friendly to enchantments" color, white. Here's what happens when we put it all together.
Bogles by Dmitriy Butakov - Magic Online Championship Winner in March 2018
|1Forest||4Gladecover Scout||2Path to Exile|
|4Horizon Canopy||4Slippery Bogle||4Ethereal Armor|
|4Razorverge Thicket||2Gryff's Boon|
|3Temple Garden||2Hyena Umbra|
|4Windswept Heath||4Leyline of Sanctity|
|1Verdant Catacombs||4Spider Umbra|
|1Misty Rainforest||2Spirit Mantle|
|1Dryad Arbor||4Daybreak Coronet|
|2Path to Exile||2Rest in Peace||3Stony Silence|
|1Grafdigger's Cage||3Gaddock Teeg||1Spirit Link|
|3Seal of Primordium|
This deck tech is going to be very simple. The first element is just eight copies of the same creature, which only do one thing: not get themselves killed while hauling the Auras that turn them into (quite literally) unstoppable behemoths. Gladecover Scout must be pissed that she's half the backbone of the deck and yet it's her beastly fellow that gets all the recognition. But hey, he was there first.
A less common sight on Bogle decks, Silhana Ledgewalker's "steep" mana cost prevents her from being more widely seen (at least outside of Pauper), but her built-in semi-unblockability is a nice thing to have on your side, especially for Bogle players who want to feel more "midrange". To the same effect, a blue splash for Geist of Saint Traft has also been theorized, but it's rarely encountered.
This section represents the "combo" aspect of the deck, i.e. the way to launch your hexproof team to victory. It's achieved through a large bunch of Auras, more than any other competitive deck has ever run before. In fact, more than one third of the entire deck is made up of Auras. Daybreak Coronet is the signature card, being an impressive creature boost that requires another Aura to already be there, so it's really only playable in this archetype, and it's part of the reason why this archetype even exists; you just try to obtain the same permanent bonus for two mana with an Equipment. Ethereal Armor is even more important and distinctive, as it capitalizes on all the other Auras to increase its carrier's clock to critical levels. Rancor completes the main trio of playsets but giving our Bogles and Scouts a degree of evasion, while also being hard to get rid of once it has successfully reached its target.
Spider Umbra and Hyena Umbra are the cheapest Auras with totem armor, which is a way to make your creature also impervious to most sweepers. Spirit Mantle is a more drastic form of evasion, in that it bypasses all creatures; it's less essential than Rancor, but it still provides good redundancy. The same goes for the deck's latest addition, Gryff's Boon, which also tries to mimic Rancor's recursion to an extent – the extent that it costs four mana to recur it rather than one.
More recently, one or two copies of Cartouche of Solidarity has been known to replace the less decisive Auras; it's a card that doesn't do much for the creature but provides some emergency backup. Keen Sense does even less, in that it doesn't boost the creature at all, but it's a strong option to extend the reach of the deck.
The Aura presence is one of the two elements that set Bogles apart from its direct cousin, Infect. The latter's greatest advantage is a clock set on ten damage rather than twenty; however, the infect creatures die to conventional removal, so instant hexproof via pump spells becomes a necessity. With its more resilient creatures and built-in hexproof at its disposal, Bogles can afford to pump them permanently via Auras, creating Voltron-style monstrosities that keep bashing at the opponent for a few combat phases, likely becoming stronger at every turn. So the strategy is still to attack with one creature, going all-in to push your beater beyond the point of inevitability; and also similar is the extremely low average casting cost (Butakov's deck includes 26 nonland cards at CMC 1, and another four that might cost zero if drawn on first hand); but Bogles makes for a less delicate glass cannon, while taking a bit longer to get it done, at least compared to pre-bannings Infect.
Kor Spiritdancer is another card that's found a natural home in Bogles, being the rare Aura enabler. She's mostly there to foster card advantage, but she can become a carrier in a pinch. She actually want to because she gets even bigger than her hexproof companions while wearing Auras, easily killing an unprepared opponent in just a couple of hits. The problem is that, yeah, Path to Exile and Vraska's Contempt kill her, unfortunately.
Speaking of which, Path of Exile is the only interactive spell of the deck, whose key role is to obliterate Bogle's archenemy, Spellskite. Similarly, maindeck Leyline of Sanctity has become a feature to stop the most common way the hexproof guys used to die - edict effects, most notably Blessed Alliance, but also Doomfall. Of course, both Path and Leyline have many more applications (and Leyline boosts Ethereal Armor), so they're rarely useless, despite not contributing directly to the very demanding battleplan.
It's an archetype that sees little variance, anyway. Dan Ward's list, the most successful Bogles deck of the year, had one Hyena Umbra in place of one Leyline, but for the rest it was exactly the same as Butakov's.
The Mana Base
The list is purely Selesnya, with a full playset of Horizon Canopy as its deck thinner, since you need untapped mana in the early turns (which rules out cycling), but you don't need more than two lands to play all your cards, leading to a low land count. Dryad Arbor is a fetchable, if unimpressive, occasional Aura carrier, adding more consistency in case none of the other eligible targets would show up or stick around.
Access to white means access to the best sideboard color, so we can have all the classic haters, including Selesnya-specific Gaddock Teeg, which is also useful to hose those pesky wrath spells (we can't always count on a totem armor to be around). Stony Silence and the remaining copies of Path to Exile are insurance against the deck's true bogeyman, the Aura-stealer Spellskite. Seal of Primordium is the Naturalize of choice, due to its interaction with Ethereal Armor.
Of course, the deck, much like Infect, is itself very susceptible to the opponent's sideboarding. It must worry about Spellskite, edict effects, enchantment destruction, and it could just fold if faced by an early Chalice of the Void on 1.
In summation, Bogles is not a major player in the current meta, but it's the kind of deck you should always be wary of because it can catch you by surprise. It had some great results in major events this year, starting with the first place of Dan Ward at Grand Prix Toronto in February (an event with almost 1,700 players), then in March Butakov's first place at the Magic Online Championship at Wizards of the Coast's headquarters in Renton, plus two Top 8 placements at SCG events, Worcester and Cincinnati. In April we had a double Top 8 at Grand Prix Hartford (another big event, with more than 1,800 players) and in May another Top 8 at SCG Modern Open Louisville. You never know when a giant Bogle will slip past your defenses (especially online, where the archetype is very popular). I, for one, always include some Back to Nature in my sideboards. That's how I make Bogle players rage quit.
INNER WORKINGS ARCHIVE
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.